Complement has been long perceived as an innate immune system that plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of host defense against infectious agents and the propagation of pro-inflammatory responses in the context of human disease. Complement activation has been associated with the onset of acute inflammatory reactions leading to complications such as acute graft rejection, local tissue injury and multi-organ failure. However, recent studies have indicated that various complement activation products may exert a beneficial effect by contributing to critical developmental and regenerative processes. Appreciating this extraordinary 'versatility' of complement proteins provides a framework for revisiting the design of effective complement therapeutics. A balanced strategy will have to consider limiting the detrimental proinflammatory effects of complement while preserving those activities that promote tissue repair and regeneration, cell survival and early development.